If there is anything Jesus makes clear in the New Testament, it is His want for us not to live in fear.
It’s rumored that if you add up all the times in the Bible where Jesus says “do not fear,” “do not be afraid,” “fear not,” or something similar, it sums to 365 times- a word of encouragement for every day of the year. (I haven’t done the math, but if you try it out, let me know.)
We live in a world where so many decisions are based on fear. We do work we don’t enjoy because we fear not having enough money. We don’t address problems in relationships because we fear losing them. We do things that are decidedly not Christlike because we fear the consequences of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.
And I don’t think it’s because God thinks we’ll never be afraid. I think instead, it’s a call to put fear aside in order to take the next step in following Christ. Jesus called on his disciples to sacrifice quite a bit in order to follow him, and they had plenty of reasons not to want to.
What will become of my family? What if I’m wrong? What if I die? Christ calls us, similarly, to give up our wealth and to welcome the stranger. So frequently we find ourselves asking some of the same questions. If I don’t have enough money, what will happen to my family? What if the stranger puts me in danger?
But if we want to follow Christ, we can take the example from the disciples:
Leave your net at the dock, like Simon and Andrew.
Take the leap of faith.
Do not be afraid.
I hear this as good news. In Christ we are freed not only of our sins, but also of our fears, shortcomings, and insecurities. In all that we do, God is with us. And when He is the stronghold of my life, whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27:1)
I also hear this as a call to action. Instead of fearing for the state of the world, we get to be God’s hands and feet in it. Instead of worrying about whether or not justice is being done, we can go out and work for it ourselves!
Imagine just how radically compassionate we could all be if we didn’t let fear drive us. If we didn’t fear the stranger, maybe we could get to know them. If we didn’t fear living in poverty, maybe we’d worship money less and worship God more. Maybe if we had confidence that God was working in us, we wouldn’t be so obsessed with achievement in order to impress the people around us.
Coming up on graduation, I know a lot of students like me have decisions to make regarding their future. I know a lot of students are worried and unsure of what that future may hold. I encourage all of you to remember that the most important thing is out of your control: God loves you unconditionally and is with you wherever you go in this life. So wherever you may go, and every day of the year: Fear not.
-Libby Witte, Senior Servant Leader